Yesterday I found two fantastic videos of guitarist Wes Montgomery at YouTube, one in Hamburg in 1964 and the other in Belgium in 1965 (from the Jazz Icons DVD). In both cases, dig Montgomery's thumb.
Here's an exciting five-song rehearsal captured on tape featuring Montgomery with a powerhouse reed-driven group: Hans Koller (as), Johnny Griffin and Ronnie Scott (ts), Ronnie Ross (bs), Martial Solal (p), Michel Gaudry (b) and Ronnie Stephenson (d)...
Wes Montgomery & Johnny Griffin & Ronnie Scott & Solal - NDR studio 10, Hamburg, 1964. - YouTube
And here's Montgomery in Belgium in 1965 playing John Coltrane's Impressions...
I love gorgeous jazz flute albums, and there are so many of them. Off the top of my head, there's Ernie Wilkins's Flutes & Reeds, Harold McNair's Flute & Nut, Buddy Colette's Swinging Shepherds and Swinging Shepherds at the Cinema, Billy Taylor's With Four Flutes, A.K. Salim's Flute Suite, Yusef Lateef's The Golden Flute, The Herbie Mann–Sam Most Quintet, Art Van Damme's Squeezing Art & Tender Flutes and many more. I have one more for you.
In 1957 and 1958, bassist and arranger Johnnie Pate recorded Swingin' Flute for the Federal label in Chicago. On the November 1957 session, Swinging Shepherd Blues, The Elder, Easy Does It and Five O'clock Whistle were recorded by Lenny Druss (fl), Floyd Morris (p), Wilbur Wynne, Johnnie Wynne (g), Pate (b) and Vernell Fournier (d). Pate had a national hit with Moe Koffman's Swinging Shepherd Blues, which reached No. 17 on Billboard's R&B chart in the spring of 1958.
I n March and April 1958, Pretty One, Muskeeta, Satin Doll, Double Promotion Blues, Whistle Blues, Deeno Dantay, Little Pixie and I Can't Go Through Life were recorded by Ronald Wilson (fl,ts) Billy Wallace (p), Wilbur Wynne (g), Johnnie Pate (b) and Donald Clark (d).
Both Lenny Druss and Ronald Wilson were multi-instrumentalists. They played saxophones, oboe and clarinet. They despite playing the flute beautifully, both musicians were fairly obscure and remain so today. Neither musician has a Wiki page, for example. As for Johnny Pate, he led trios in Chicago in the 1950s and eventually crossed over to arranging in the late 1950s. One of his last albums on bass was James Moody's Last Train From Overbrook in 1958.
Throughout the 1960s, Johnnie arranged for Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions and arranged pop albums for artists such as Nancy Wilson. In the '70s, he composed and arranged for black action films such as Shaft in Africa (1973), Bucktown (1975), Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976) and Sudden Death (1977).
Having interviewed Johnnie for my WSJ essay on Mayfield's People Get Ready (go here), I can tell you he's a wonderful, elegant guy.
In 1966, producer Sonny Lester, engineer Phil Ramone and arranger-composer Manny Albam launched Solid State Records as the jazz division of United Artists. The label specialized in top sound. Albums were recorded on a 28-track recorder using transistorized gear. The albums were designed specifically for solid state stereo equipment, which processed music with screwed-down solid semiconductors rather than tubes. [Photo above of Manny Albam]
To put Solid State's wide-sound promise to the sonic test, Albam recorded Soul of the City. He composed, arranged and conducted the songs, Lester produced and Phil Ramone engineered. The New York band was staggeringly first rate: Ernie Royal, Joe Newman, Burt Collins, Snooky Young, John Frosk and Freddie Hubbard (tp); J.J. Johnson, Eddie Bert, Wayne Andre and Tony Studd (tb); Jimmy Buffington, Earl Chapin, Howard Howard and Al Richman (fhr); Jerome Richardson, Phil Woods, Don Ashworth, Chuck Russo, Frank Wess and Seldon Powell (reeds); Mike Mainieri (vib); Hank Jones (p); unknown (g) Richard Davis (b) or Ron Carter (b); Mel Lewis (d); Phil Kraus (perc) and strings.
Soul of the City was a concept album that captured different New York scenes in musical images. To enhance the concept, sound effects such as babies crying, police sirens, a sports crowd cheering and a jet flying by were overdubbed briefly in places. Each of the songs offers a different impression but resists becoming an orchestral View-Master of New York. Instead of rendering tourist destinations, Manny seems to have limited his impressions to obscure locations he found interesting: Born on Arrival; Children's Corner; Museum Pieces; Game of the Year; View From the Outside; Tired Faces Going Places; View From the Inside; Ground Floor Rear (Next to the Synagogue); Riverview and El Barrio Latino. [Photo above of Manny Albam]
The soloists are superb:
Born on Arrival — J.J. Johnson (tb), Phil Woods (as) and Hank Jones (p)
The Children's Corner — Jerome Richardson (fl), Mike Manieri (vib) and Woods
Museum Pieces — Woods and Manieri
The Game of the Year — Frank Wess (ts), Woods and Johnson
A View From the Outside — Woods, Burt Collins (flhn) and Johnson
Tired Faces Going Places — Collins (tp)
A View From the Inside — Joe Newman (tp), Johnson
Ground Floor Rear (Next to the Synagugue) — Richard Davis (b), Freddie Hubbard (tp)
Riverview — Manieri, Woods, Jones
El Barrio Latino — Ernie Royal (tp)
Soul of the City lived up to expectations. As the label boasted, "[The line] deftly blends superb artists and magnificent performances with dynamic range and absolute cleanliness of recording." As for Manny Albam, the album remains an unheralded masterpiece. Every inch of the recording is bold, elegant and cool. Why this one isn't in print is a travesty. [Photo above of Sonny Lester]
Manny Albam died in 2001; Phil Ramnone (above) died in 2013. Solid State Records ceased production in 1970.
JazzWax tracks: The album is impossible to find in any format, including LP. Yesterday, I saw only one vinyl copy at eBay.
JazzWax clips: Here's Museum Pieces with solos by Phil Woods and Mike Maniari...
Combine the sound of Quincy Jones's and Maynard Ferguson's big bands of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and you wind up with Harry South. The British pianist, composer and arranger led monster big bands in the U.K. The bands he assembled often included crack instrumentalists such as Ronnie Scott, Ronnie Ross and Tubby Hayes. South knew he had a good thing going in the early '60s. He imagined a world where bands like his were the rage, once the Liverpool mop-top thing had yeah-yeah-ed itself out. What South couldn't fathom was that the Fab Four hysteria wasn't a fad but the future. The big band music he treasured may have seemed as if it was halfway to international celebrity but in truth it was halfway to pasture.
Fortunately for us, the U.K.'s R&B Records has released Harry South: Further South, a four-CD boxed set of South's live broadcast recordings on the BBC from 1960 to 1967. If you dig the two American bands mentioned above—sophisticated swing with a Count Basie punch and tiger soloists—the South box is a feast. In addition to the Harry South Big Band tracks, which make up a bulk of the box, there also are live recordings by South on piano with the Dick Morrissey Quartet. [Photo above, from left, of Harry South and Georgie Fame]
Culled from South's own tape archive along with previously unissued material, the box includes several surprises. In addition to strong arrangements and originals such as The Goblin, Pancho and the Sound of Seventeen, there also are 10 tracks by vocalist Georgie Fame in 1965, including three Basie tunes—Down for the Count, Li'l Darlin' and Little Pony. The box's sound overall is good enough (it's live, after all), and the set includes a 28-page booklet with detailed notes.
Once rock and soul's dominance of the music landscape was complete by the late 1960s, South traded in his dream of a modern big-band Candyland for a more practical career: He composed and conducted themes for some of British TV's most popular dramas.
Harry South died in 1990.
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Harry South: Further South (R&B Records) here.
JazzWax clips: Here's South's The Goblin in 1960...
In The Wall Street Journal this week, I interviewed Craig Ferguson, the Scottish actor and comedian, for my "House Call" column (go here). Craig hosted the Late Late Show from 2005 to 2014. Craig talked about growing up in a town designed in the 1950s for the future, but the place was a gloomy disaster. He also talked about the cruelty of his teachers at school and their penchant for having students hold out their hand as they brought down a small strap on it. [Photo of Craig Ferguson courtesy of CBS]
For me, the Late Late Show was the best late night talk show on the air then or now. Here's one from 2012...
Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson 10/29/2012 Tom Hanks, Phil Hanley - YouTube
The Best Interview In The History Of Television [Robin Williams] - YouTube
Symphony Sid. Aurin Primack, whose father was co-owner of New York's Birdland, sent along a photo of Symphony Sid (standing). Seated, from left, is Frank Sinatra, boxer Ezzard.Charles and Sarah Vaughn.
Jane Hall, guitarist Jim Hall's wife, sent along the following email [Photo above of Jim and Jane Hall, courtesy of Jane Hall; photo by Bob Pesce]:
Dear Marc, one Thanksgiving about 45-plus years ago, Jim was on the road, and Jack and Jackie Lewis invited me to dinner at their home. They also invited Symphony Sid. As we dined on wonderful turkey and trimmings, we began talking about the Half Note. Evidently, there had been a feud between the Canterinos (the club's owners) and Sid. Not knowing much about the politics involved, I suggested ending the feud. After all, it was Thanksgiving.
All agreed so we called Sonny Canterino to say we’d like to come down after dinner. I guess he gave the go-ahead and we all piled into Sid’s white convertible and drove downtown. Sonny and Mike Canterino were waiting outside. All shook hands. The feud ended and although I never understood what it had been about, I was glad to see it was over.
Mike Canerino's wife, Judy, used to take coats there and was a good friend. Jim took me to the Half Note for my first live jazz experience to hear Zoot Sims and Al Cohn. Jim told me not to talk during the music. Years later, when New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett wrote a profile of Jim, I told Whitney that story. When his profile came out, my story was in there. Al teased me about it, saying he could hear me listening.
Here's a tribute to Jim Hall that Brian Camelio made in 2015...
Remembering Jim Hall - YouTube
Prestige All Stars radio. "Symphony" Sid Gribetz will feature the “Prestige All Star” recordings on the next edition of “Jazz Profiles” on Sunday, May 19, from 2 to 7 p.m. on WKCR. In the late 1950's, Prestige Records produced a series of albums with ad hoc arrangements of medium-sized bands playing extended improvisations. Some of these sessions would include sophisticated original compositions and arrangements by Teddy Charles and Mal Waldron, while others would be free-wheeling jam session-styled workouts on standards and the blues. The LPs were marketed as music by the “Prestige All Stars.” You can listen from anywhere in the world on your phone or computer by going here.
What the heck.Here are the Beatles on David Frost's On Sunday in 1968 performing Hey Jude...
The Beatles - Hey Jude - YouTube
Oddball album cover of the week.
Nor sure why this is for teenagers only. Looks more like the father of one of the kids who's had too much to drink. Even worse, he's insisting on skipping the record with his right foot.
Guitarist Jim Hall had a way with notes. His improvisational style often involved taking a song apart and reassembling it in jagged pieces. He enjoyed the dissonances as much as the resolutions, and below it all was the most swinging, seductive rhythm. Jim was a huge inspiration for many guitarists and still is.
Here are seven guitarists playing Jim Hall transcriptions:
Here's Michael Shepherd playing Jim's intro to I've Got You Under My Skin on his Intermodulation album with with Bill Evans...
I've Got You Under My Skin - Bill Evans & Jim Hall - YouTube
Here's David Rourke playing along with Sonny Rollins on Where Are You from Sonny's album, "The Bridge"...
Where Are You? Jim Hall Transcription - YouTube
Here's Jeffrey Matz playing Jim's part on Bossa Antigua from Jim's album of the same name with Paul Desmond...
The genius of Jim Hall - YouTube
Here's David Rourke playing Jim's part accompanying Sonny Rollings on If Ever I Would Leave You from Sonny's album What's New?...
Gibson GA-50T: Jim Hall, If Ever I Would Leave You - YouTube
Here's Chandler Taylor playing Jim's part on Stella By Starlight from Jim's album, Jazz Guitar...
Jim Hall 'Stella by Starlight" Transcription - YouTube
Here's an anonymous guitarist playing Jim's part on You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To from Jim's album, Concierto...
You'd be so Nice to Come Home to (Jim Hall) Guitar Test - YouTube
And here's Liz DeYoe playing along with Jim on the Theme From Black Orpheus on Paul Desmond and Jim Hall's album, Take Ten...
Jim Hall Black Orpheus Solo Transcription - YouTube
Taking a deep dive into Sahib Shihab's discography a couple of weeks ago, I came across an odd name. While Shihab lived in Denmark in the 1960s, he recorded two albums in Copenhagen backing a singer named Pedro Biker. Pedro Biker? At first, I thought the name might be a pseudonym for a famous American singer who was in Denmark on tour and wanted to sit in with expatriate jazz musicians. I also assumed the pseudonym was a brand of Danish pipe tobacco.
But after doing a little research, I discovered that Pedro Biker was a Danish jazz drummer and singer. I acquired the two albums he recorded with Shahib from a friend—Evergreens in Danish Design and The Song Is You. From the opening track of Evergreens in Danish Design, I was in shock. The band had a pure American swing feel and Biker was a superb relaxed lounge singer in the Frank D'Rone-Steve Lawrence tradition.
Still more research was needed. Born in Portugal in 1925, Biker moved to Denmark as a child with his family at the absolute wrong time, just as Germany was preparing to invade Russia and Europe. Biker's professional drumming career began at age 18 in 1943 in the Bent Fabricius-Bjerre Orchestra. During the war, Biker was in the Resistance. According to a contributor to Every Second Counts: True Stories from Israel by Richard Osterman:
We were among the first Danish Jews who came to Sweden. When, during the German occupation, the situation in Denmark became critical in September 1943...I met one of my friends in the Resistance movement on a street in Copenhagen. Pedro Biker said to me, "You and your family must leave your home immediately and find refuge or else you will be in grave danger." Pedro was a drummer in a jazz band, and I knew that what he told me was serious and something I had to take note of.
Biker likely escaped to Sweden as well. After the war, his first recording in 1945 was in Stockholm with the Kjeld Bonfils Orkester. The band was notable for several musicians who a few years later became famous jazz artists: Rolf Ericson (tp), Sven Hedberg (tb), Ake "Stan" Hasselgard (cl), Kjeld Bonfils (p) Sven Stiberg (g), Simon Brehm (b) and Biker (d).
Not until the late 1950s was Biker's singing voice discovered accidentally on the radio. He soon began recording as a singer of American pop songs sung in Danish. But in 1963, Biker recorded the first of two English-language jazz albums in Copenhagen—Evergreens in Danish Design (Fontana). The band featured Allan Botschinsky (tp), Sahib Shihab (as, sop,fl), Bent Axen, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and Bjarne Rostvold.
The second English-language album, The Song Is You was recorded in Copenhagen in 1966 for Sonet. It too was an album of American songs. But this time the band was much larger and arranged by Kenny Drew: Sahib Shihab (as) Kenny Drew (p) Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (b) and Alex Riel (d), featuring Palle Mikkelborg (tp), Allan Botschinsky (flhrn), Bent Jaedig and Uffe Karskov (ts), Bent Nielsen (bar), Bjarne Rostvold (bgo) and Dave Sternbach (fhr).
Clearly, these albums were recorded for export to the U.K. and America, or for soldiers stationed abroad on American bases. The vocals are so good that if I played these albums for you and asked you who was singing, you never guess. Try it with your jazz know-it-all friends and see how they fare.
Biker died at age 48 in 1973.
JazzWax tracks: These albums are so obscure that they only made it onto Danish Universal CDs. Vinyl copies are available at eBay.
JazzWax clips:Here's I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart from Evergreens in Danish Design (1963)...
Pedro Biker - I Let A Song Go Out Of My Head (1963) - YouTube
Doris Day, whose melting pop vocals on records and pert sunny image in movies in the 1940s, '50s and '60s made her both a successful multimedia star and a national dart board, died May 13. She was 97.
While Day's image was an ideal for many American women coming of age after World War II, it also came to personify '50s conformity and good-girl subservience. Both of these images would be held up to ridicule in the tumultuous 1960s, when the pill arrived and a generation rebelled against these virtues. By then, the name "Doris Day" unfairly became code for repressed and uptight.
Though Day's song choices on albums weren't always the best and she tended to sing each one identically, her voice was as beautiful as a jewelry box. Her intonation and phrasing were perfect and seemingly effortless as she held notes with a slight powdery vibrato. To be fair, the quality of her albums often depended on who arranged and produced.
Unlike many of her singing peers, Day appeared to have little interest in recording jazz, and arrangers typically steered clear of sexy swing bands. Instead, she stuck with the kittenish pop style that brought her to the dance. Despite her jazzy years with Les Brown in the 1940s and her co-starring role with Kirk Douglas in Young Man With a Horn (1950), a film inspired by the life of jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, Day never revealed an earthy side in a song the way peers such as Patti Page and Kay Starr did.
Most of Day's albums were bland and predictable, but a few stand out (like the one above) and will appeal to jazz ears. Here are my favorite clips by Day on albums and in film:
Here's Day in Young Man With a Horn, co-starring Kirk Douglas...
Doris Day - "Too Marvelous For Words" from Young Man With A Horn (1950) - YouTube
Here's another clip, with Douglas's trumpet dubbed by Harry James...
Doris Day and Kirk Douglas - "With A Song In My Heart" from Young Man With A Horn (1950) - YouTube
Here's Day with a crafty Paul Weston mid-tempo arrangement of There Will Never Be Another You on the album Day by Day in 1956...
There Will Never Be Another You - YouTube
Here's For All We Know from my favorite Doris Day album, The Love Album (1967)...
Vibraphonist Lem Winchester emerged at the tail end of the 1950s, recording his first leadership album in 1958. He would record only six albums under his name and about eight as a sideman. Music was a second career for Winchester. For 10 years prior to becoming a professional musician, he was a police officer in Wilmington, Del., and carried a Colt service revolver.
Winchester's best album is Lem's Beat. Recorded for Prestige's New Jazz label in April 1960, the album paired Winchester with Oliver Nelson on tenor saxophone and Curtis Peagler on alto. Bill Brown (p) appears on Your Last Chance and Eddy's Dilemma while Roy Johnson (p) played on Friendly Persuasion, Lady Day, Just Friends and Lem and Aide. Wendell Marshall (b) and Art Taylor (d) were on all tracks.
On Lem's Beat, Nelson and Peagler's horns wail and Winchester's playing on vibes is taut and crisp. Except for the album's two standards, the rest of the songs were Nelson originals. Nelson also wrote all of the arrangements. I'm not sure why Roy Johnson took over on the piano from Bill Brown, since the album was done in a single session. Even stranger is that the two songs Brown played on were the first and last on the date.
Speaking of strange, Winchester died at age 32 in the early hours of Friday, January 13, 1961. He was leading his quintet at the Topper club in Indianapolis. According to the Indianapolis News, he asked the bartender, Robert Cook, for an aspirin. Cook opened a drawer beneath the cash register and placed a .38 on the register while he fished around for the aspirin box.
According to Cook, Winchester said, "That looks like my old service revolver. Can I see it?" Cook gave the revolver to Winchester, who said he wanted to show Cook how he used it to scare friends. After emptying the gun's five shells, he reportedly said, "Now watch," as he replaced four, spun the cylinder, pointed the gun at his head and fired. He died instantly.
According to the Pittsburgh Courier, Winchester likely assumed the Smith & Wesson and Colt had the same chamber action. The Colt's chamber rotated counter-clockwise and would come up on an empty chamber. The Smith & Wesson rotated clockwise and didn't. Winchester left behind three young sons.
Though Nelson dominates this album, Winchester meshed perfectly with him, cooling off the saxophonist's heat. Which is probably why he was on two of Nelson's albums in 1960—Takin' Care of Business and Nocturne. Perhaps the finest track on Lem's Beat that provides insight into Winchester's soul was Friendly Persuasion, the ballad theme to the film of the same name. What a shame the bartender had to remove the gun to provide Winchester with an aspirin. [Photo above of Oliver Nelson by Jan Persson/CTSImages.com]
JazzWax tracks: You'll find Lem Winchester's Lem's Beat on a Fresh Sound release pairing it with Oliver Nelson's Takin' Care of Business here.
Lorez Alexandria was a superb singer in the Sarah Vaughan mold. Alexandria recorded more than 20 albums over a 36-year period starting in 1957. Why she isn't a household name today is beyond me. Perhaps it was the smaller labels she was on or her decision to cling to Chicago, a lesser media market, for much of her career. Or maybe one Sarah Vaughan was sufficient. There are no bad Alexandria albums. All have a hip, confident charm.
One of my favorites is her second album, Lorez Sings Pres: A Tribute to Lester Young. Recorded after hours for King in front of an audience of friends at an unnamed Chicago club on November 6 and 13, Alexandria was accompanied by Paul Serrano (tp), Cy Touff (b-tp), Charles Stepney (vib), King Fleming (p), Eldee Young (b) and Vernell Fournier (d). Each of the Chicago players here had a celebrated career.
Drummer Fournier was a member of the Ahmad Jamal Trio and one of the great brush players. Cy Touff was an exceptional bass trumpeter who recorded many terrific albums as a leader. Paul Serrano shifted from trumpet to engineering and worked with major jazz, rock, soul and gospel artists, including Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger. He eventually became head engineer at Delmark Records. Stepney woudl work as a producer for numerous soul artists in the 1960s and '70s. Fleming worked in Chicago steadily throughout the 1960s and beyond. And Eldee Young was a member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, before leaving the group in the mid-1960s to become the Young in Young Holt Unlimited (Soulful Strut). [Photo above of Vernell Fournier on drums with the Ahmad Jamal Trio]
As the liners notes on the back cover of Lorez Sings Pres points out, all of the songs chosen were recorded by Lester "Pres" Young. Alexandria here proves she had an in-depth feel for Young without succumbing to mimicking his style or solos. For her, the Young material was simply a springboard to be herself. Interestingly, this album preceeds Sarah Vaughan's After Hours at the London House by four months. Makes you wonder whether Lorez's album gave Mercury the idea to record Sassy live in a Chicago club filled with friends.